Treyarch Fulfills its Duty with ‘Black Ops’

"Black Ops", although flawed, refines the "Call of Duty" formula

What started as a cherished gem of PC gaming has now exploded into an international phenomenon—Activision’s “Call of Duty” is easily the biggest title in modern gaming. With the release of each installment, fans’ expectations of the franchise increased almost exponentially.

Each title in the series is alternately created by game companies Infinity Ward and Treyarch. In the past, fans have not been too receptive of Treyarch’s attempts at crafting CoD games. Nonetheless, gamers’ enthusiasm for “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” developed by Activision-owned Treyarch, has mounted to unprecedented levels.

With its engrossing campaign, balanced multi-player, and attention to detail, Treyarch’s “Black Ops” is the best “Call of Duty” game on the market.

Campaign—movie style
In the past, “Call of Duty” campaigns have seemed to be afterthoughts, a tacked-on mode meant to feebly support the visceral multi-player. With “Black Ops”, Treyarch has injected much-needed vitality into the historically weak single-player modes.

The “Black Ops” campaign, which follows the enigmatic story of soldier Alex Mason, will thoroughly entertain you with its explosive action, slick presentation, and riveting plot. Nonetheless, the gameplay is marred by unintelligent artificial intelligence, infinitely spawning enemies, and minor bugs. Photo by Activision, Inc.

The “Black Ops” campaign probes the memories of an Alex Mason, a Studies and Observation Group soldier interrogated for the significance of a series of cryptic numbers. The story will captivate you as you attempt to piece together fragments of the mystery surrounding Mason. Many plot twists are strategically inserted throughout the storyline which hook you back in just as your attention begins to wander.

This unique manner of jumping between Mason’s memories allows for a perpetual stream of uninterrupted explosions, gunfire, and gore that will enthrall you throughout. The campaign never grows dull because various distinctive missions are wedged between the shooting—you will fly a helicopter, pilot a spy plane, and more.

Unfortunately, the single-player mode can be as frustrating as it is entertaining, especially if played on veteran. The friendly A.I.’s IQ is abysmal and will do nothing to help you. Meanwhile, the enemies often spawn infinitely, making the game feel more cheap than challenging.

Multi-player and online

The all-new Wager Match mode allows players to gamble their CoD points online. Wager Match brings a host of unique game types, adding freshness to the “Call of Duty” multi-player formula. Photo by Activision, Inc.

“Call of Duty” games are invariably remembered for their multi-player components—“Black Ops” is no different. The game changes up the tried and true CoD formula by introducing CoD points, the in-game currency. The points, which can be earned by completing challenges or special contracts, are used to unlock weapons, perks, and character customizations. They can even be gambled in the new Wager Matches, which consist of specialized game modes. Highlights include the adrenaline-pumping One in the Chamber, where players battle it out with a pistol and one bullet, and the primitive Sticks and Stones, which has you playing with knives and crossbows.

The biggest improvement to the multi-player, however, is the balance. Gone are the godlike perks of One Man Army, Stopping Power, and Tactical Nuke. Gone are the commando ninjas that sprinted all over the map as if they had just downed ten cans of Red Bull. Gone are the seemingly continuous streaks of AC-130’s raining hellfire from the sky. Now, it actually takes skill to succeed.

Zombies!
The beloved Nazi Zombies from “World at War” return in “Black Ops”, and now four players can join together to mow down the never-ending hordes of the walking dead. Three maps are available, including a retro throwback; each is unique and well-designed.

Presentation
“Black Ops” falls short when it comes to the audio-visual package. Textures are bland, gunfire sounds unimpressive, and some matchmaking quirks mar the experience. The presentation is not bad by any means, but gamers have come to expect more from a triple A title like “Black Ops”.

And the little things
“Black Ops” is brimming with details and features that give substantial depth and replay value to the game. In addition to the aforementioned features, “Black Ops” possesses a secret arcade game, hidden pictures, a truly interactive menu screen, intel to collect— the list goes on. With so much content, the game feels like a steal at $60.

The Verdict
While hindered by a few bugs and technical issues, “Black Ops” is arguably better than Infinity Ward’s “Modern Warfare 2,” which suffered from a lack of balance. “Black Ops’” supremacy over MW2 may come as a surprise, as Treyarch has previously attempted to emulate Infinity Ward and learn from their successes. It seems, then, that the student has finally surpassed the master.

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